Building an Age-Friendly San Francisco

We’re in a “longevity revolution,” as Dr. James Goodwin PhD, an academician and global aging expert would say – the health of our communities is improving and our life expectancies are rising.  But as our demographics shift, we need to prepare our infrastructure – housing, transportation, and services need to change too.

In reflecting about the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics Conference, held in San Francisco at the end of July 2017, Metta Fund wanted to highlight the incredible work our own community has been doing to make San Francisco age-friendly.  Age-friendly communities, a recurring theme of the conference and an internationally recognized model created by the World Health Organization, is a truly intergenerational concept.  An age friendly world enables that people of all ages, from zero to 120 (and older), can actively participate in community activities and treats people across the life-course with respect, regardless of age.  The key components (i.e., policies, services and structures related to the communities’ physical and social environments) should help all people to live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved in their communities.  This concept of age-friendly encourages three important attributes:

  1. Changes in environmental infrastructure;
  2. Improvement in attitudes (to reduce ageism);
  3. Acknowledgement of valued contribution/expertise of older people.

In San Francisco, the aging population is growing – one in five San Franciscans is currently an older adult and in about ten years it will be one in four.  SF is working towards being an Age & Disability Friendly city by convening a taskforce monthly to develop tangible and measurable improvements for both community organizations and city agencies in eight domains: Community Support & Health Services; Engagement & Inclusion; Communication, Information, & Technology; Employment & Economic Security; Housing; Transportation; Outdoor Spaces & Buildings; Resiliency & Emergency Preparedness.  There are 27 members of the taskforce who are developing these improvements; they are made up of community members, nonprofits, City departments, businesses, academia.  Click here for more information about the taskforce, including improvement recommendations.